Hygge! and experiences that I will never forget...

The best four months of my life, embedded in the so-called happiest country in the world, there is not one thing I would change about my study abroad experience in Aarhus, Denmark.Psychology student @ Aarhus 'Hygge', 'kageordning', 'happiness' and 'friendship' are all terms I deem to be synonymous with Aarhus; a small, intimate city with a bustling student culture and a world away from the concrete-jungle of London.

I wasn't thrown in at the deep-end upon arrival, I was met at the bus stop by my mentor who sorted everything out for me, and offered to show me around the city- which instantly eased my nerves about being alone in a completely foreign culture. Further to this, the first week is Welcome Week whereby there are numerous activities designed to get you to know other exchange students. I quickly understood that the next four months would be the best four months of my life.

A focus on independence with your learning, and an emphasis on student led seminars has allowed me to use a different teaching approach to my advantage. Classes that match the city itself with the classic 'hygge' environment ever-present in Aarhus, and often with students from no less than 10 different countries I have been able to form links and friendships with people from the Caribbean, Australia, Canada and Singapore to name but a few. My classes took the form of 3 three-hour seminars a week, with 'kageordning' in each class. 'kageordning' is essentially 'cake time' whereby each week a student brings in cake to share with everyone, a tradition in Denmark and entrenches a relaxed, informal atmosphere in classes- and also the opportunity to get to know the other international students and the Danish students.

The social side of Aarhus is more than you could ever wish for. As exchange students you get a discount in the student-led 'Studenter Hus' on beers, coffees and snacks. Every Tuesday night there is the International Night, which quickly became the 'go-to' event each week at the start of term, and where I met some of my best friends here. On top of this there are plenty of bars downtown, all of which aren't too pricey.

However, I enjoy travelling so spending four solid months in Aarhus wasn't what I did. I made the most of the easy access to other countries and went InterRailing around Scandinavia, travelling up through Sweden and down through Norway and the Norwegian Fjords. Further to this I also rented a car with my new friends and drove 1500km down to Munich for the world famous beer festival Oktoberfest. Such experiences I would never have dreamed of happening had I stayed in Reading, and experiences that I will never forget.

Aarhus does have plenty of its own sights, though, which I also made the most of. There is the Deer Park where you can feed the wild deer, the beech, the harbour, the old town 'Den Gamle By', ARoS Museum, the Latin Quarter, the theme park 'Tivoli Friheden' and much more. All of which I attempted to make the most of during my stay here. Not to mention the cheap and accessible transport links to Copenhagen, Hamburg and Berlin

Although the term 'hygge' doesn't have a direct translation, it perfectly sums up my exchange experience. When you live here immersed in the culture every day you fully understand what 'hygge' means: a kind of 'cosiness' and a happy, intimate, positive atmosphere where you are surrounded by your friends.

Rhys McDonnell, BSc Psychology

Aarhus University

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